THILAKAN- Remembering the ‘Perumthachan’ of Malayalam Cinema

Is Thilakan the finest Malayalam actor ever

Ask any Malayalam movie lover to pick out their top five actors in Malayalam , very rare are the chances that you find a list without Thilakan in it. That itself speaks a lot about the actor’s greatness than anything else. Thilakan was an integral part of Malayalam Cinema ever since his debut in 1972 till his death following a stroke on September 24th, 2012.

In a glittering career spanning 40 years, Thilakan has portrayed a rich variety of roles ranging from the doting grandfather or father to the ruthless villain to the disciplinarian family head to the caring neighbor- in the process, also winning 3 National Awards and 9 State Awards. Here is a look at some of the most memorable characters by the legendary actor.

Achuthan Nair (Kireedam) -Want to know what a good chemistry between two actors is all about ?.. Watch Mohanlal and Thilakan on-screen .Its always a  treat to watch these actors play father and son and Kireedam stands out as my favorite. If Mohanlal was terrific in one of the most haunting climaxes Malayalam Cinema has ever seen ,Thilakan matched him step for step with a heartbreaking performance as the helpless father whose dreams for his son got shattered.The dialogue –‘Ninte achanaada parayunne Kathi thaazhe ideda’ which Thilakan rendered with so much pain continues to haunt us for long every single time we watch the movie.

Antony Pailokkaran (Namuku Parkaan Munthiri Thoppukal) – An actor playing villain succeeds when his character instills fear and hatred in the viewers and didn’t Antony Pailokkaran do that exceedingly well? We could not help but despise the heroine’s ruthless and cold-hearted stepfather every single moment he appeared on screen. If Namuku Parkaan Munthirithoppukal is regarded today as one of the all time best romantic movies in Malayalam, then Thilakan’s role is equally vital to those of Padmarajan, Mohanlal and Johnson Master in achieving it.

Ananthan Nambiar (Nadodikattu) – Thilakan could make you cry , he could earn your hatred and he was equally good in making you laugh too.There are numerous characters where Thilakan’s comic timing looked so spontaneous on screen but Nadodikattu’s Ananthan Nambiar perhaps stands out because of those one-liners which are still popular today. His ‘CID escape’ ,’Angane pavanaayi shavamaaayi’ , ‘Ninnodu njan chaya chodichillallo kunjirama’ and ‘Hello Mr.Perera’ are the dialogues which we still use  in our day-to-day conversations among friends .Thilakan simply rocked as the smuggler and how he trembles each time someone entered his room or a phone bell rang is a treat to watch even after so many years.

Raman (Perumthachan)– Perumthachan was perhaps the most important movie in Thilakan’s career which won him his first state award and also kept him in close race for the national award the same year, before losing it to Amitabh Bachan. Thilakan gave a powerful performance getting into the skin of the much acclaimed character written by M.T Vasudevan Nair. His crisp and intense dialogue delivery stood out and yet there are a lot of scenes where he just stood silently and expressed his emotions through eyes. The final moments where he drops the chisel to kill his own son would remain unforgettable for anyone who has watched the movie. 

Thampi (MoonamPakkam) – Another immensely memorable performance. As the doting grandfather, Thilakan won our hearts and left us in tears at the end when he walked on to the sea after his grandson too left him. There is a scene in the beginning when he greets Jayaram who has come to visit him during vacation with his friends. Just watch his eyes as Thilakan walks slowly to Jayaram and looks at him for a while at the joy of seeing his grandson after a long gap – It never fails to melt your hearts ! He is also terrific in another hilarious scene where he and Jagathy try hard to switch off the television as it starts playing the wrong video !

Sankaran Nair (Kudumba Puranam) – There was always something so endearing about Thilakan whenever he plays a simple common man. Thilakan is one actor who could portray all range of characters, but it is when he played characters which we can relate more to like the ones in Kudumba Puranam, Sandesham and Veendum Chila Veetu Karyangal that I loved him the most. Its amazing that the same man who played a bad guy in Namuku Parkaan and a powerfully intense character in Perumthachan could transform so easily to an unassuming humble man too. In Kudumba Puranam , when he plays cricket and breaks a pot or when he gets into fight with his son or when his heart melts watching his grandson next door though he wants to stay tough , Thilakan was at his natural best all throughout.

Achutha Menon (Indian Rupee) – Indian Rupee’s Achutha Menon is a personal favorite as I got to see the great actor in a mainstream movie after a gap of almost 2 years.There is a scene where Prithviraj asks him – “Ithraym Kaalam evide aayirunnu” and I still remember the huge applause in the theater .Yes ,we did miss this great actor all this while. When Thilakan got strangled in the issue with film associations, a lot of directors told they would cast him if they had a role suited for him but it was only Ranjith and Prithviraj who came forward and worked with Thilakan and as a result we could see Thilakan in another amazing character in Usthad Hotel the next year too. 

Kareem (Usthad Hotel) – For Usthad Hotel ,Anjali Menon won the national award for the best dialogue but those lines – ‘ Oro sulaimaniyilum orithiri mohabbath venam’ ,’Vayaru nirakkan aare kondum pattum, pakshenkilu manassu nirayanam, athanu kaippunyam..’  would not have been the same if not rendered by Thilakan. There is no doubt that Anwar Rasheed would have had a difficult time to choose someone else for Kareemka had Usthad Hotel happened one year late. Kareemka will always remain a special character in Thilakan’s career being his most memorable work from his final few years and the nation honored the great actor and this performance with a special jury National award posthumously

We missed Thilakan the last two years and we will continue to miss him dearly in years to come as well. When film makers sit down to write characters like Indian Rupee’s Achutha Menon and Usthad Hotel’s Kareem Bhai , they will continue to have a hard time to find replacements for Thilakan and when we watch those characters on screen , there will continue to be moments when we wish Thilakan was there to play those roles. Thilakan will always have a honourable place in the industry as the “Perumthachan of Malayalam Cinema”